Rangers Host a Formidable Opponent in the Bruins

The Rangers face the Bruins tonight at Madison Square Garden for the third and final meeting of the regular season between these two Original Six franchises.

The Rangers have won the previous two games and are in desperate need of a victory. It sets up to be a difficult task given that, at present, the teams seem to be heading in opposite directions. The Bruins are in the midst of an outstanding run of play, having only one loss in regulation in their last 22 games.

In the meantime, the Rangers have lost six out of their last seven. Boston sits in second place in the Atlantic with the 4th best overall record in the entire league. The Blueshirts have sunk to last in the Metro, but are still trailing Columbus by only three points for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers were beaten 2-1 in their last outing by the Stars in Dallas. It was a gutsy, hard-working attempt backstopped by the tremendous play of Henrik Lundqvist. Playing without five injured regulars, the NHL-talent-strapped Blueshirt lineup played hard and well but at the end of the day it wasn’t enough.

These are not joyful times in Rangerland, particularly when you throw into the mix the noise that now surrounds this team with regards to the trade deadline. That deadline is still a couple of weeks away and a playoff position is certainly within striking distance, and that is something that should serve as motivation on a game-to-game basis. While it is going to be difficult to plow through this situation, I wouldn’t expect the room or the coaching staff to let anyone off the hook when it comes to working hard and competing.

Beyond that, the chips will fall where they may.

A year ago today, the Bruins fired their then head coach Claude Julien and replaced him with their AHL coach Bruce Cassidy. Cassidy coached his team to a playoff spot on the heels of an 18-8-1 record down the stretch last spring and has done a tremendous job guiding Boston to its’ present lofty position.

These are not the big, bad Bruins who, on their way to a Stanley Cup, bullied their way around the ice. This version plays a skilled, quick up-and-down game forcing the opponent in all three zones. It doesn’t hurt the cause that the top players, Tukka Rask, Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and public enemy No. 1 Brad Marchand are playing like top players. Another formidable opponent.

KEYS

1. Penalties

In the last two games, a normally disciplined Rangers team has taken 10 penalties. The skill of the opponent does play a role, but getting into the proper position when defending should cut down on the number of infractions. Staying out of the penalty box will help.

2. Expect 60

The Bruins are 20-1-5 when scoring first and have the second-best winning percentage when giving up the games first goal. They have outscored their opposition in all three periods and are +47 in goals for/goals against in regulation time. The Bruins don’t easily roll over and you can expect them to hang around for a complete 60 minutes.

3. Get it to OT

In overtime, Boston is 4-8 while the Rangers have won 8-of-13 games decided in the extra 5 minutes of 3-on-3 hockey. The last time these teams met, Mats Zuccarello won it in overtime.

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.